The way JRR Tolkien describes so invitingly, Bilbo’s life in The Shire in his classic work “The Hobbit”, a life of pint and pipe and books, a leisure life of sumptuous repast and cozy fires – one would think they had already reached the happily ever after of the story before it even had a chance to begin . . . thankfully, Tolkien goes on to enchant us with his much beloved tale of adventure, courage, and comradery.
I’ve always found it curious when meeting folks who are so fixated on having their happily ever after right now, they end up trying to avoid some of the best chapters of their life’s story – as if uncertainty could be held in abeyance and security were anything other than an illusion. Perhaps they need Gandalf the Grey to enlist them in an adventure, to remind them that there is far more to life . . . and that they were created for far more than they have been willing to accept.
We find the most notable, sensibly safe person of scripture with a shovel in his hand, having just buried his talent (Matthew 25:18) – spoiler alert! It doesn’t end well for him. The point of the parable isn’t about how shrewd we can be with what we’ve been given, but whether or not we are willing to risk engaging the world with what God has entrusted to us. In Luke 9:60, Jesus ostensibly explains that death is for the dead, conversely implying that life is for the living, and that the Kingdom of God is all about life – therefore the living should be about the business of proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
As the worship service closes every Sunday morning, I remember that it opened with God calling me to join my brothers and sisters in this place to worship him, and to learn how to live my life in his presence. So as the words of the benediction are spoken, I turn the palms of my hands up, and my face to the sky, emblematic of my hearts posture – because I am being sent out under the auspice of my King’s authority . . . empowered to be an envoy of his grace and love in the world. In this way, our worship of God isn’t meant to be a collecting pool filled with all of our favorite God “experiences”, it is to be a cascading fountain – to be poured out into the lives of others.
Our lives were never meant to be lived at a safe distance from the world, sequestered in our separatist enclaves, cloistered in our parallel universe – so disengaged that when our fallen world acts fallen, we perceive ourselves as being under siege. It is true that we are not to be conformed to this world, as per Paul’s admonition (Romans 12:2) – because we have been set apart to be conformed to Christ (Romans 8:29) . . . which is the very transformation of our thinking described in Romans 12:2. So in truth, it is the way we think about our world which is actually the point – not by trying to make the world less fallen, but rather by being ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20) . . . it is the adventure to which we are all called.
So this Sunday, as the words of the benediction are being spoken — it may help to imagine Gandalf the Grey standing next to you, inviting you on a great adventure, to have your life forever changed, to embrace what you were created to be, created to do . . . because there are many terrifyingly beautiful chapters yet to be written in your story.
This is a song I wrote years ago that my daughter Jessica decided to include on a CD project I recently had the honor of producing for her (my daughters Lindsey and Kathryn sing on this song as well).
Be sure to check out her website @